Posts Tagged ‘kids’


What Rudolph Taught Me

December 15, 2018
rudolph plush toy

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on

It seems as though Rudolph has been thrown off the sleigh. In current times, some folks cry for the cartoon to be banned, claiming that it’s filled with prejudice and insensitive behaviors. If Rudolph were written today, I might agree.

But it wasn’t.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeerwas written in 1939 and first hit television in 1964. The show should be appreciated in the contextual times it was written.

When I was little, Rudolph was my favorite Christmas show. I loved the bouncing bumble who scared me and then endeared me. I loved the land of misfit toys. I loved the tiny cozy cabin and the terrible storm. I loved the jingle of Santa’s sleigh as he crossed the moon’s path.

But mostly, I loved Rudolph.

The heart of the story focuses on a character who doesn’t fit in, because he’s different. He’s teased and taunted and ridiculed because of his nose, but also, because he’s an independent thinker who believes in a greater truth than what’s been told. It’s a hero’s journey of perseverance and self-discovery. It’s a story about prejudice. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer helped me understand that being different can and should be championed. Rudolph resonated with me because even at a young age, I understood the inequity and unfairness in the world. Without realizing it, at age four, I became a champion of social justice.

We all have hidden and not so hidden obstacles to overcome. Some folks have harder lots than others. In a world that desperately needs more compassion and understanding, it’s important to fight for freedom for all. At least, that’s what Rudolph taught me.



An Ode to my Kids, and Perhaps to Yours

August 10, 2016


Saying goodbye is hard to do. No matter how much you prepare yourself—no one can truly anticipate being so damn sad. Grief flows its own river.

Like many, I’ve had significant loss—in addition to my grandparents; death took my two aunts, my dad, two brothers, and a number of pets. I know how grief works. It grabs you, swallows you, spits you out and repeats until you crash and begin to finally begin again.

This time, my loss is not so permanent; thus not so powerful. That said, good-byes are painful, and change is scary. My oldest child leaves for the University of Colorado this month, altering our family life forever. Ellie will be back, probably with a load of dirty laundry and a need for home cookin’, but she’s gone. Her place at the table will be vacant, her bed empty, and her siblings lonely (okay, maybe not all the time). The happy news? She’s embarking on a grand adventure, starring herself. It won’t be long before my other two leave, too. I’m beyond proud of the people they’ve become, and yet, still sad.

To help me process and understand the tremendous change, I’ve written an ode to my kids; things I hope I’ve taught them. I’m sure I’ve messed up, forgotten things, and have probably failed in some capacity. But that’s parenting. At least I made a list, outlining 25 things I want them to know. Who knows if they’ll heed the advice or grasp the full meaning, I can hope.

  1. I wish you a life of love and know that you are always loved by me
  2. Find good company
  3. Laugh often
  4. Eat lots of fresh vegetables and don’t drink too much alcohol
  5. Call me when you are hurting or happy- I’ll be there
  6. Remember to breathe deeply and that it is enough
  7. Brush your teeth
  8. Be honest- with yourself and with others
  9. Know that life isn’t fair, but it is what you make it
  10. Eat breakfast (more than a Starbucks’ latte, please)
  11. Work hard
  12. Pay your debts (better yet, don’t have any)
  13. Don’t post inappropriate pictures online
  14. Take good risks (don’t jump out a window, but do try a new activity/class)
  15. Read for fun
  16. Know that it is okay to let go
  17. Don’t hold onto anger, guilt, or resentment
  18. See a doctor, an acupuncturist, or a good healer when you are sick
  19. Take your vitamins
  20. Don’t leave a friend alone at a party
  21. Don’t stay alone at a party
  22. Trust your intuition
  23. Be kind
  24. Meet many diverse people
  25. Know this: I am forever grateful for the time we’ve lived together, arguments and all




Ho Ho Ho…

December 10, 2009

The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same. –Carlos Castaneda

Well if the amount of work is the same, I’ll take happy. Any day. Truth be told, life’s been a little rough lately. Like most moms, extra work and not much time have dominated my life. Holiday energy can be great, until it’s not. I love this time of year and yet the gifts to buy, decorations to adorn, and the meals to make can overwhelm even the superist of super moms. So why do we do it?

Like Carlos, I’ve reaped a new perspective and do what I love. I sing Falalala very loud. Write. And I spend time with my family and friends. What I don’t like? Overly tired kids.  Bah Humbug people. Traffic. Plus, one cookie party is enough, isn’t it?  Who cares if we skip bows and ribbons? Isn’t it more important to cut paper snowflakes with our kids than prepare the Martha Meal? Let’s cut down on the holiday hubbub that makes us miserable and spend the extra time making happy.

Maybe we should all order pizza to celebrate. After all Canadian Bacon’s a distant cousin of the holiday ham, right? Either way, emphasizing the happy may be the key to survival during the season of light. Think Joy. And above all the reason for the season.


Passion or bust

November 14, 2009

“Great dancers aren’t great because of their technique; they

are great because of their passion.”

I’m not sure who said this, but God love ‘em.

In my family, I’m known as the Ohio skier. Translation—bad. But my response is always the same, “who cares? I love it more.” Given my eldest would give up junk food for the rest of her life in order to ski, I’m not sure this is true. However, I stand by the passion plug. Love what you do.

Today, we skied for the first time as a family. Ellie, the daughter who’d sell her teenage soul for a powder day, has been out with her race team a bunch. But the rest of us have only just begun.

Honestly, I wasn’t’ sure I was ready to ski. After all, the Halloween witch just packed up her broomstick. Getting up before the sun on a Saturday wasn’t a thrill either. But, gliding down that hill? Not much can compare. Fresh air, steep slopes, and Texan skiers whooping it up? Well, now that’s skiing. Okay, maybe we could delete the Texans, but the rest of it? Pure passion. Do what you love.


Can You Ask For Help?

September 11, 2009

Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him.  ~Albert Schweitzer

We’ve all been there. Lost. On an open road with a husband who refuses to stop and ask for directions.

Asking for help makes us feel vulnerable. It messes with our pride and derails our rugged individuality. Like two-year-olds, we insist on doing it ourselves. Even if that means staying lost in the desert.

After hearing the buzz about Obama’s speech for students, I decided to listen firsthand.  I watched the speech live with my son’s fourth grade classroom. When the teacher asked the students what they heard the President say, a hand went up. Mario said, “Ask for help! He said he even does it. And he’s the President!”

Relieved Mario hadn’t recited the Communist Manifesto, I listened harder to what the kids had to say. The teacher asked how they might need help. Some said they needed help with homework. Another wanted spelling suggestions. One little girl said she needed help remembering her glasses. “And where can we find help?” Ms. Brendyl asked.  The students responded with the usual: a parent, a teacher, the principal, a friend.

President Obama urged students to find someone who can help them succeed. While many adults shuddered at the thought of President Obama speaking to our nation’s children, I wondered, why? What made people so opposed and so afraid? Are tags like staying in school and working hard terrible values? Is asking for help a socialist ideal?

Then I remember the husbands stranded in the desert. Maybe asking for help frightens people. However, for many of the kids who receive free school meals, or kids with only one parent at home, or others with a language barrier, hearing the President say that it’s okay to ask for help was nothing short of  miraculous.

One of the guiding principles of all major religions is to offer help, and yet somehow people have forgotten what that means. Helping your neighbor means all neighbors. Even the ones we don’t like. Or the ones across the border. And like all values, help must begin with our own selves. In order to succeed, rather than getting lost in the woods, we could take the President’s advice and ask for help. Building community means celebrating our greatest gifts and sharing them with others, while also recognizing our greatest weaknesses and asking for support.

On that note, I’m finding someone to help with the laundry.


Loving Neighbors: Even on Vacation?

August 15, 2009

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” –Galatians 5:14

Do I have to love my neighbor on vacation? Technically, she/he’s not my real neighbor.

Taking vacation on a small lake in Michigan means cottages close together. Thin cottages. Or rather, walls that are thin. The kind of thin that allows you to hear sweet sounds of summer as you fall asleep. Birds chirping and water lapping upon the shore. What’s not poetic? The chainsaw. At 8:00 a.m..

Now, I ask, is that neighborly? Construction work before the sun has warmed the dock? And what about barking dogs? Or screaming kids splashing in the lake? Oh right, those are mine.

It does take an extra stretch to be kind sometimes. Like when tourists drive backwards down the “off” ramp. Or when a wave runner comes deathly close to your swimming 7-year-old. Love may be hard to muster when you wait in line for an hour at Dairy Queen. Then again, it’s not so hard. Just watch your kids trying to decide between a double chocolate-coated cone with sprinkles or a Butterfinger Blizzard. Big choices. Big love.

I guess I can tolerate the chain saw. Maybe it’s my guilt. The fireworks we brought were a little loud. Vacation is all that. It’s ice-cream and laughter. Swimming and s’mores. It can even be a hammer next door.


Speak or Silence?

August 5, 2009

When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.  –Audre Lorde

According to Audre Lorde, I guess I should be pleased my kids aren’t afraid to be heard. They just speak and speak and speak and speak. All the time.

The youngest found her voice recently. I use to worry she was quiet, hiding her rambling thoughts inside her head. Be careful what you wish for. Now her mouth runs like the energizer bunny.

The oldest found her teenage voice recently too. Enough said.

As a middleman, my son’s never had a problem NOT speaking. He wakes us singing opera. Or with nonstop verbiage such as: “ Yo, you man what you talkn’ about? Hey no way. That’s mine. Wait, I want that one. Why can’t I have the last blueberry muffin? But why does she get it? That’s totally not fair. Fine then. I’m eating all the cream cheese…” and on it goes. Perhaps his long discourses will train him well in a political profession.

By the end of the day my ears don’t just ring. They whirl and twirl with noise. But now, in this very minute there is silence. The joy of camp. For moms.

Funny thing is, after a minute I miss it (well, okay, maybe an hour). I miss the chaos of voices. I miss the complaining and the arguing and the life that my kids give to my space. I miss the speak. And the speaking and speaking and speaking.